Board appointments by county council turn meeting contentious

John Hacker.
Photo provided.

A normally routine board appointment process turned contentious during the Monday, Jan. 28, meeting of the Huntington County Council as Councilman Joel Harris led the charge to remove a long-serving member from the Huntington City-Township Public Library Board and was, in turn, removed from the Huntington County Emergency Management Agency board by the council's president.

"I'm concerned you're going overboard," County Council President John Hacker told Harris.

Hacker added that several members of the EMA board requested that Harris be removed as the council's representative on that board.

"I have concerns of the pressure the committee is putting on council," Harris told Hacker. "I kind of want to see this through, if possible."

The Emergency Management Agency has been operating without a director since Brian Topp, who held that position on an interim basis, resigned in mid-2012.
Topp, formerly the deputy director, was appointed to that position after the Huntington County Commissioners declined to renew previous director Brandon Taylor's contract at the end of 2011.

The commissioners' actions prompted a lawsuit against the county by the EMA board, which has since been dismissed, and a second lawsuit filed by Taylor.

"You've sat on it and had two directors leave," Hacker told Harris.

The hiring of a new director is being held up because too many people on the EMA board "want to be in control," Harris said. "They can't even get a quorum."
Harris said that as a member of the EMA board he has tried to separate his personal concerns from the interests of council as a whole.

Hacker, saying he wanted an unbiased person to represent the council on the EMA board, initially sought to appoint county council newcomer Jaime Miller to the position.

Councilman Todd Landrum quickly stepped in and volunteered his services.

"If Joel can't be on there, I would like to be on there," Landrum said. "We need to move forward with this whole project."

Remaining council members agreed to appoint Landrum to the EMA board.

Council appointed Wilbur "Will" Kline, of Huntington, to the library board to succeed long-time member Carlton Sprague, despite the fact that the library board president had recommended Sprague's re-appointment.

Sprague, Harris said, voted in library budgets that were too generous for council's liking. Harris said he's also seen Sprague sleeping during board meetings.

"We shouldn't approve somebody who's voting against our wishes, Councilman Kendall Mickley said.

Landrum said that Kline has expressed a willingness to serve on the library board, and his appointment was unanimously approved.

In other business:

• Hacker was re-elected council president, with Don Davenriner re-elected vice president.

• Council decided to seek bids on the second phase of a renovation project at the Huntington County Jail. The project will include upgrades to cellblock showers, electronic security systems and doors.

• Gennie Guhl was appointed to serve on the Huntington County Alcoholic Beverage Commission. She will succeed Kathy Elmore in that position.

Both Guhl and Elmore had applied for the spot, but only Guhl, a former ABC member, attended the council meeting to answer questions.

• Larry Brewster was selected from three applicants to serve on the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals.

• Ryan Wall, appearing on behalf of the board of directors for the county's new community corrections program, was given permission to advertise to hire a director for that program.